Tag Archives: Sire

Playlist: History of British Rock (Sire Records, 1976)

I had this cassette in high school. I can’t remember exactly where or why I bought it, but my guess is that it probably came from the Columbia House tape club. Or maybe I bought it at the mall because it had a rare Beatles song on it.

It’s a weird compilation. Released by Sire Records in 1976, it’s not arranged chronologically but it spans from the first single by a British group to reach the American Top 20 (“Silver Threads and Golden Needles” by the Springfields, 1962) through Beatlemania and psychedelia all the way to 1971’s earthy noodlefest, “Layla.”

There’s nothing by the Rolling Stones, the Who, Herman’s Hermits, Hollies, Small Faces, Zombies, Them, Moody Blues, Pretty Things, Spencer Davis Group, or the Yardbirds, and the Beatles song is a goofy throwaway recorded in Hamburg before they had a record deal. Some of the songs never even charted on this side of the pond at all (“Black Magic Woman” by Fleetwood Mac, “Massachusetts” by the Bee Gees). So it’s just a strange listen. But it was my introduction to most of these songs, and to be honest, I haven’t heard many of them since I left home for college.

This comp is a distillation of the four-volume Sire Records series of historical releases issued between 1974 and 1975: History Of British Rock, Vols 1-3 plus Roots of British Rock. Seymour Stein created an ambitious program of double LP packages chronicling rock music’s history. Each original volume contained 28 songs with lots of cool photos and liner notes by Greg Shaw. So my tape was clearly a cheapo knockoff of the original set with no photos or notes. And Sire kept the crappy version in print. Weird!

It’s hard to imagine now, but at the time most of these recordings were otherwise out of print and generally unavailable to the public. Stein told Billboard in 1975: “It is our feeling that rock does need to be available in some sort of historical context for today’s market.” He noticed that jazz and blues “have virtually everything ever recorded available on some sort of collection” and he wanted to do the same for rock and roll.

His plan didn’t last very long. Within a couple years Sire refocused on new music like the Ramones and Talking Heads. This type of historical release would be taken over — and perfected — by Rhino Records.

In fact, shortly after I rescued this tape from the budget bin, Rhino started releasing its nine-disc collection, The British Invasion: The History of British Rock, which seems to have been inspired by the Sire series, by then out of print. The Rhino box was compiled by Harold Bronson and contained 180 British songs that charted in the States. That’s a cool project and all, but my dumb tape was enough for me.

So I recreated it for you to stream…

Continue reading Playlist: History of British Rock (Sire Records, 1976)

Tegan and Sara – Sainthood

Tegan and Sara - SainthoodTegan and SaraSainthood (Sire)

Following the pop tart approach initiated on The Con, Tegan & Sara‘s latest (Sainthood) continues the tradition of New Wave gloss thanks to another go-round with Death Cab For Cutie‘s Chris Walla behind the studio glass.

What is surprising is how Sainthood tastes like there’s nearly twice the sugar as The Con. Despite the heavy-handed album title and visually stunning cover art, the two have completely severed all traces of their folkie past and are gunning for a more mainstream audience.

And what band does Tegan and Sara most resemble as they work their way into sweet realms of pop?

Missing Persons, circa Rhyme & Reason.

Continue reading Tegan and Sara – Sainthood

The Distillers – Coral Fang

The Distillers - Coral FangThe DistillersCoral Fang (Sire Records)

“He’s gone away / He’s gone away,” screams Brody Dalle at the end of “Drain the Blood,” the first track on Coral Fang. The Distillers’ third album opens with this quick street-punk anthem that recalls much of the group’s earlier work and teases to set the tone for more of the same.

However, as astute observers will note, the “Armstrong” is gone from Brody’s name, signifying her split with Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong, and much has changed. “He’s gone away” is not idle lamentation – it’s foreshadowing the next 45 minutes.

The second track, “Dismantle Me,” wastes no time in introducing a new sound. Singing like Courtney Love possessed by the spirit of Kurt Cobain, Dalle repeatedly moans in the chorus: “I want to bury you.” This is screaming punk with a rock and roll soul that follows a hard/soft formula atypical of the Distillers’ previously established sound.

As the album progresses, Dalle’s passionate and expressive singing takes over. Her simultaneously rough and well-trained voice has improved considerably since the Distillers’ self-titled debut. No matter what she’s saying, she demands attention. And her trademark screams still resonate like a chainsaw between the ears.

Although the Distillers remain rooted in street and gutter punk, they fearlessly explore other areas of punk and hard rock over the course of Coral Fang. Some of these attempts succeed and others fail. “The Gallow is God,” which operates on a much slower pace than traditional punk, feels Metallica-goes-acoustic awkward. On the other hand, the new-wave guitar riff that runs through “For Tonight You’re Only Here to Know” works surprisingly well. “The Hunger,” which lasts almost five and a half minutes – a startling departure from the one-to-three-minute cuts that characterized the band’s first two albums – falls somewhere in the abyss between.

Just like Iggy was the Stooges [Ahem, don’t say that around the Asheton brothers – Ed.], Dalle is the Distillers. Although her band does a decent job of backing the songs, Dalle’s singing and writing dominates the soundscape of Coral Fang. The only drawback to her taking all the songwriting credits for this album is that her breakup with Tim Armstrong seems to overpower its themes and stifle its intricacies. At times Dalle sounds like she’s overextending herself simply to make a statement. Hopefully more of a fad than a direction that the Distillers will choose to follow in the future, Coral Fang makes a strong argument that the only thing that’s inevitable, in both life and music, is change.

You can listen to the album and watch a video via the Distillers’ player.